Changing Office Politics as We Know It
Office politics is a topic that is typically avoided and rarely acknowledged. But it actually has a
remarkable impact on productivity in the workplace. The difference between a historic and a modern view of office politics is how we address it. The fact is, there is a need for office politics – it’s how we get things done. Embracing this view is the key to getting to the next level, which is differentiating between office behaviors that are positive and welcome or negative and offensive.
Office politics can have both negative and positive characteristics. The negative qualities can range from gossiping, exclusion, game playing, and overusing your authority to outright sabotage and harassment. These are passive-aggressive behaviors meant to belittle, manipulate, or otherwise cause damage to others.
Even small, subtle behaviors that devalue people, like not being included for lunch, if they happen consistently enough, will make others feel left out. These behaviors are slight, and often semiconscious, which makes them unbelievably powerful. Those on the receiving end develop attitude problems, and feel like they aren’t appreciated.
On the positive side, office politics can motivate, energize, and enhance productivity in the workplace. A few positive characteristics are knowing and capitalizing on the strengths of
others, straightforward communication, robust dialogue, respect for differences, and creating win-win outcomes. These qualities could all be used against someone with a destructive intent, but when seen as a beneficial, the result is usually increased morale and productivity.
- Once you decide to curb the negative politics in the workplace, involve everyone. Determine which negative behaviors are not allowed, and what consequences are involved for those choosing to use them.
- Confront the brutal facts. If there is a problem, don’t assume it will just go away or consider it a normal part of doing business. If you need an outside party who remains unbiased, contact a reputable consulting or training business. The detachment can help overcome personalities and history.
- Don’t take setbacks personally. Even the most positive environments need to occasionally have disagreements. But it’s turning it into productive conflict that makes all the difference.
- Above all, be a good role model. Use straightforward communication and respect differences of opinions. Remember, what we allow, we teach!
Regardless of what we do, office politics will exist within any company in one form or another. It’s what we do with it that makes all the difference. Taking the challenge head-on to make it positive is the best approach, and even though there may be some short term pain, the long term benefits are well worth the effort.
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